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New Report Says Vacationers Want More ‘Transformative’ Experiences

Yellowstone National Park

According to a new report, Yellowstone National Park could see more visitors this tourist season.  And that’s welcome news for towns located outside of the park at the four main entrances, like Cody.

Tourism numbers for Yellowstone dipped last year by 13 percent, compared to 2022.

The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years (through May):

  • 2023 – 645,646
  • 2022 – 733,471
  • 2021 – 649,153
  • 2020 – 145,849 (The park was closed May 1 through May 17. Two entrances opened May 18 and the remaining three opened June 1.)
  • 2019 – 576,776
  • 2018 – 570,824

But a new report is feeding optimism that more people will not only come to the nation’s first national park, but want to journey to other places as well.

American Express conducted the study and found more vacationers are continuing to embrace spontaneous trips and experiential travel in 2024.

The credit card company’s report found travelers are focused on creating the right itineraries for their vacations, leaning towards unusual adventures and solo travels that are taken on a whim.

Of the travelers polled in the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, 77% of respondents said they care more about “having the right travel experience than about the cost of the trip.”

The study also found that 84% of respondents plan to spend more or an equal of money on travel compared to last year, which could be good for Cody’s economy in the upcoming 2024 tourist season.

The study also found travelers are planning major, life-altering trips that can “deliver transformative experiences,” and that is something Yellowstone National Park certainly offers.

“Yellowstone delivers a world-class visitor experience,” according to the National Parks website. And for some tourists, the incredible beauty and majestic vistas and typography can be transformative. One tourist on the review website Quora described the nation’s first dedicated national park as “Perfect. There is simply no other place like Yellowstone.”

Evidence of tourists wanting “transformative experiences” can be seen in the recent trend of volcano hiking as well as the expected mass of visitors to Texas for the upcoming solar eclipse on Apr. 7. The population of Bell County, located north of Austin, is likely to double from 400,000 to 800,000 leading up to the eclipse.

The study found 76% of Millennials and Gen Z respondents (compared to 69% of all respondents) say they are planning on taking a solo trip 2024. Seventy-four percent of male respondents and 63% of female respondents reported they are planning on taking a solo trip in 2024.

The study found travelers are leaning into flexible itineraries to experience the local culture when they explore.

It also found 68% of people were seeking flexibility in their travel plans and leaving unplanned time in their trip to experience local culture/activities. Almost 60% of respondents said they preferred booking a last-minute getaway to a nearby destination rather than somewhere far away.

Audrey Hendley, president of American Express Travel, said in a statement that travelers are focused on booking a trips to see a favorite sports team compete or something like a once-in-a-lifetime expedition cruise.

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